Friday, June 22, 2007

Vacation




These are photos from our New Zealand adventure in 2006. This year we have a much closer destination, but intend to have just as much fun!



Last year, was the first year ever that I took off for 2 whole weeks to just enjoy life and be with my family. Upon returning, the answers to questions that had been eating away at me prior to leaving were clear as day. I felt a freshness and a calm that all of my years of meditation hadn't brought.



Meditation defintiely had, and does, help to maintain that clarity or get closer to it, but for me it was 2 weeks of being completely present and not being pulled by anyone or anything other than the love of Mike and the boys or the call of the mountains. It was truly blissful.



The key to arriving home with such clarity about my life and career was a promise I had made before leaving. I had vowed to not think at all about decisions yet undecided or concerns of my life and its direction. I had taken an oath to only enjoy, observe, and embrace this new country and all that it had to offer. Like magic, upon returning, decisions were easy and life felt full, really full.



A dear friend, student, and director/producer at New Moon Productions told me that the years after her first 2 week vacation, she took 3, and then 4 weeks. Every year she travels for at least one month consecutively. The "new start" feeling afterwards, simply cannot be beat.



So, I will not be posting or even using a computer or answering any phones for the next 2 weeks. Like a 2 week savasana, I intend to surrender more fully than I ever have, to embrace every experience and to see the beauty in everything!



So, until July 9, or so, enjoy the words of Jane Kenyon:



LET EVENING COME


Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn,

moving up the bales as the sun moves down.


Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles and her yarn.

Let evening come.


Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned in long grass.

Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.


Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down.

Let the shed go black inside. Let evening come.


To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop in the oats,

to the air in the lung

let evening come.


Let it come as it will, and don't be afraid.

God does not leave us comfortless,

so let evening come.











Love Much,

Kris
http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/
http://www.learnyogaonline.blogspot.com/

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Meditation - Benefits more than meets the eye

Check out



http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/05/no_sneaking_sec.html



to see how meditation can help your awareness throughout the day.



http://coglab.wadsworth.com/experiments/AttentionalBlink.shtml provides an easy to follow explaination of the Attentional Blink used in the study found in the first link of this post.



Love Much,

Kris
http://cdbaby.com/cd/kriskramer

http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/
http://www.learnyogaonline.blogspot.com/

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Growing up - "No more blocks for me, Mom."



"No more blocks for me, Mom." My 12 year old son places the blocks in the give away pile.


"Really? Are you sure? Didn't you just use them this past winter?"


"Yeah, but I'm done. I don't need them anymore."


"What do you mean you don't need them anymore? You love blocks. Didn't you and BJ just build that cool marble track with them the other day?"


Slight pause, "Mom." Small laugh from my son as he says, "Keeping the blocks isn't going to stop from happening what you don't want to happen."



Like a deer caught in headlights on a dark night, I realized that I'd been caught. Not so much caught as awakened to what was really going on.



I didn't want my children to grow up. I wanted to keep the days of candy land, picture books, and blocks to last forever. I wanted my children to live with me forever and always snuggle on my lap.



Even though the days of past are only alive in my heart, I find my physical self yearning for them, and my 12 year old knew this. Not only that, he had the insight to tell me.



My "baby" opened my eyes to what I thought I had come to terms with. I thought I was more evolved than this and could love without attachment.



But here I am. A mother of two young men. I am torn between wanting them to grow into happy contributing adults and wanting them to stay with me. To stay young and keep childhood alive in our home. To feel the softness of a newborn, the laughter of a toddler, and knowing I am needed every single day.


I remind myself, that life, like Yoga, is a journey. It takes practice to "get it right" and acceptance of where we are today. In order to change, we must be aware of where we are and where we'd like to be.


I know where I am. The journey continues so that one day, I can let these two beautiful people live their own lives and follow their own paths.


Wow, motherhood might give the biggest lessons of all.


Love Much,

Kris
http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/
http://www.learnyogaonline.blogspot.com/

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good Posture

Try this simple exercise to feel the impact of posture in your energy and mood.


Sitting in your chair, let your body collapse into a slouching or slumping position. How does the inside of your body feel? Is there a sense of being stuck or stagnant? Do you feel a flow of energy?


Now over-effort by strongly lifting the chest skyward and force the shoulder blades down the back and towards one another. Maintain a strong low back curve as you suck the belly towards the spine. Now observe. How does this position make you feel? Do you feel free or tightly wound? Does there seem to be a free flow moving through your body? Do you feel open-hearted and filled with compassion and love?


The key to any alignment, including asanas or simply sitting in a chair, is not so much in following set instructions, but rather using instructions to help find the best flow of prana (energy).


So, this time, start soft. On an inhale, allow you heart center (chest area) to feel as if its floating skyward. As you exhale, keep the heart lifted and glide the shoulder blades gently down the back. Next inhale as you lengthen the spine and maintain awareness of the low back curve tipping the top of the sacrum forward. Maintain the spinal length as you exhale and softly draw the low belly back and up. How's the energy flow feel now? Do you feel comfortable? Confident? Is the breath any easier than in the previous 2 exercises?


This is what your asana practice ought to feel like. One of the beauties of Hatha Yoga is finding the flow of prana inside. This prana is literally your life force. So, it only makes sense to work with finding and allowing its flow to be enhanced at all times.


Enjoy the practice!


Love Much,
Kris
http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/

http://www.learnyogaonline.blogspot.com/



Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Happiness - Joy - How do you find them?





Most people come to yoga looking for something. A few are curious, but in general folks are looking at yoga to help them. To bring relaxation, flexibility, tone, or mobility. Others stop by a class for stress relief or even to find God.

Our reasons for unrolling the mat are as varied as we ourselves are. What brings us happiness and joy, also, differs from person to person.

Max Strom says, "We may 'achieve' our physical goals but move even further away from joy and contentment."

He raises a good point: Joy and happiness do not always come from physical fitness. Ironically, if you push yourself beyond your limits and belittle yourself to reach an "ideal" body, you can easily end up with depression, headaches, anxiety, or worse. The outer body might be looking fine, but the insides and mind have paid a high price.

The flip side is that it feels good to be in shape! We have more energy and physical comfort to play with our children, hike in the Rockies, or dance the night away. So, some happiness must come with being in shape.

It's your motivation or intention, behind the external goals, that really determines where you find joy.

If your goal to fitness is to get back your old crappy boyfriend (or girlfriend), this is not such a great idea. And is almost guaranteed to backfire in emotional trauma.

But what if you want fitness to live life more fully? To increase your health and live a long and productive life? Then "achieving your physical goals" really can bring more joy and contentment.

One of the keys is to stay focused before every single practice (and every single day) on your intention. This helps you to act appropriately.

For example, in your asana practice, if your goal was to look hot, then you are more likely to end up feeling crappy inside and are more prone to injury from forcing yourself. This happens because the goal is about you not being good enough.

However, let's say your postures are about to becoming fit in order to be healthy. Health means a positive attitude and "self-talk" as well. Health is not about force or compromising one aspect of your being for another. It involves looking at the big picture. This is where contentment lies.

Here's another example of how different intentions for the same goal are so important. Dr. Joe Vitale has a web site to attract a new car. This seems superficial and not a path to true satisfaction or inner happiness. However, when you hear Dr. Vitale talk about manifesting material things, he always says "It's not about the car" or whatever item you are bringing into your life. He describes the material possession as a constant reminder of how powerful you are. It's a symbol of what you can accomplish when your intention is set, you have faith in the Universe, and you then let it go.

So, again, if you want to new car to impress your neighbors or because you think it will solve all of your troubles, then you might just be in for a surprise. On the other hand, if you want to learn how to intend, believe, and let go, then perhaps going for the car might be just the thing.

Looking for more happiness?

Before each practice and upon rising in the morning, become consciously aware of your heart's intentions and the joy will be there.



Love Much,

Kris
http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/
http://www.learnyogaonline.blogspot.com/

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Abdominal - Core



As I easily reached my legs out long and straight while coming into headstand (sirsasana), I was amazed at how stable and strong my core felt.

Where the heck did that come from? Could it be that dark chocolate really does improve inner strength? Or was it something else? As much as I wanted to believe it was the modest indulgences of nightly dark chocolate pieces (a gift for mother's day), I knew I had to look elsewhere.

For the past 4 years, I'd been coming into headstand with knees bent. The idea of lifting straight legs seemed like an impossibility, and I was just thrilled to be able to focus enough to get upside down anyway!

So, what suddenly changed?

What I found was not situps, boat pose (navasana), or any of the Yoga poses (asanas) directly related to the core. It was my pranayama practice.

Yep, some simple breathing did it. A couple of weeks ago I began including Bellows Breathing (Bhastrika) more frequently in my practice--about 3 times a week. Click here to check out a video on it how to do this practice. The technical quality is not the best, but you can still get the important and useful info.
In my experience, if I include this breathing technique, not only do I end up with a clearer mind, but also a stronger core. With that said, don't overdue such a powerful pranayama! 3 rounds per day is plenty. For beginners, make the rounds very short (10-15 seconds). If you feel light headed, nervous, anxious, or have trouble sleeping. Stop the practice. After a couple of weeks, you can return but very slowly. As always, I'm not an MD and don't know your personal case, but for many this is a great practice.

Love Much,

Kris
http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/
http://www.learnyogaonline.blogspot.com/

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Smile - Smile and the whole world smiles with you

I'm in the midst of writing a book on the practice of Yoga and have found that the coffee shop down the street is the perfect location to work on it. At Cup of Java, there is no audible requests for my attention from the three cats or the dog. There is no inner requests in my mind to do a load of laundry or search through the frig. I'm drinking a lot more coffee, albeit decaf, but this is the price I pay for ease in focus.


Yesterday, an elderly white-haired man and his wife came into Cup of Java while I was typing away on my laptop. After getting their drinks, they sat down on the leather sofa adjacent to where I was working. The gal that was running the shop stepped into the restroom, and the white-haired man got up to open and close the door a number of times. Each time, the buzzer, signalling a new customer had arrived, went off loudly.


Curious, I asked jokingly, "Are you just trying to be annoying?" To that he replied, "I'm making the gal that works here think there's a bunch of customers out here while she's in the bathroom." He and his wife gave a little chuckle. His amusement in this innocent prank was nothing shy of charming.


Thinking about how much fun BJ and Jake (my sons) would find this, I mentioned, "I'll have to tell my kids about you. You will be there new idol of mischief." We all laughed, as the gentleman told me how he pulls small pranks all the time.


"I would do anything to bring a smile," he told me.


How wonderful to have a focus every day of bringing a smile to those around you. This made me think about a cheery student, A.K., that sets his intention every day to experience joy. He told me that when he started thinking joy, he got more of it. He is definitely joyful to be around. He's one of those students that is always gracious and wearing a smile.


When A.K. signed up for his first Yoga class earlier this year, on his registration sheet he wrote Joy as his main expectation from Yoga. You know what he got? Joy.


What intention do you have?


Love Much,

Kris
http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/
http://www.learnyogaonline.blogspot.com/

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Secret - Law of Attraction - Jinx

I don't want to jinx this, but ....

Yesterday, Mike and I were sitting on a bench just outside the front door of our home. Pippin (that's him in the photo practicing some Yoga) was happily roaming under the ferns and hostas enjoying a new area to explore.
You see, we usually hang out in the back yard on the deck, but that was stained 2 days ago and we're not suppose to go on it for 3 days. I was about to share with Mike how lucky we are that Pip was staying in the front with us, being that I'd like to not have to re-stain the deck due to dog prints.
That's when it hit me. Years ago I would have focused on the dog going into the back and been more concerned about it. But thanks to the movie, The Secret (which I have some issues with, but feel the general message is decent), Joe Vitale, and awareness of the Law of Attraction, my mind has shifted. I focus on what I do want. Not always, but more and more every day.
Could that be where the superstition of jinxing came to be? People focusing on the negative and then getting what they focus on? How different would the world be if we all focused on what was "right" in the world and what we'd like to see more of? Focus on peace, love, ease, clarity, and joy for a month. You might be surprised and just how often the mind moves into the negative, and you might just find more of peace, love, ease, clarity, and joy.
What does this have to do with Yoga? Yoga is not just a physical practice, but an awareness of our thoughts, mind, and attitude. I'm not telling you what to do, but I do know that my life runs a lot smoother and happier when I think about was is going well--not fearing what might happen.

Thanks for listening,

Kris
www.TotalHealthYoga.com
www.LearnYogaOnline.Blogspot.com

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Yoga - Pilates

Is it really Yoga?
Ever hear of Yogalates? No, it's not a new drink at Starbucks--not yet, anyway. Being a bit of a purist at times, the idea of mixing Yoga and Pilates (thus, Yogalates) seems like a poor idea.

Each of these philosophies or ideas have their own merit. To mix them is to water down each of them. Not being true to either leaves something lacking. Somethings complement each other very well, like dark chocolate and almonds go great together. Peanut butter and jelly. Hot days and the beach. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. You get the idea.

Yoga and Pilates, in my opinion, are not one of these awesome relationships and should be kept separate. I'm not saying one is better than the other (oh, come on, who am I kidding--Yoga is best ;-)).

Yoga is a very complete system and has 4 to 5 thousand years behind it. Pilates has been around for the last 50 or so years, but has proven itself a very useful and beneficial system for thousands, if not millions, of people. That's impressive.

Here are some of the stats on each (based on my experience, readings, years of studying Yoga, and info from Pilates studios). Please, bare in mind, that my knowledge of Yoga is much more vast than of Pilates. I've only read a couple of books on Pilates, attending a handful of classes, and researched studio descriptions of it, but have tried my best to be fair and honest in describing each modality.

Happiness

YOGA - Bhakti Yoga says that happiness comes from the Divine.

PILATES - "Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness" - Joseph Pilates

Mind & Body

Y - In Hatha Yoga, the body is used with the breath to calm the mind and lead to meditation where the student eventually remembers his/her divine nature.

P - Physical and mental health are directly related.

Exercise only?

Y - From the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, Yoga is a lifestyle, not just an exercise.

P - Movements using machines are designed to fully engage the body and mind.

Who can do it?

Y - Can be adapted to almost anyone.

P - Can be adapted to almost anyone.

Focus

Y - Most classes focus mostly on stretching and surrender.

P - Most classes focus mostly on strength and control.

Energy/Chi/Prana

Y - Asanas (postures) are really about clearing blocks and getting the prana/energy/chi flowing.

P - There appears to be no mention of the energy system of the body.

Texts

Y - The original texts on Yoga speak a lot about life, attitude, philosophy, spirit, mind, breath, and more.

P - The Pilate texts focus mainly on the body.

Depth

Y - Yoga includes, but is not limited to the body and mind. Breath is used in pranayama to move and and direct the prana/energy inwards. Meditation and kriyas are used to affect more subtle layers (koshas) of the body, and finally the state of samadhi or nirvana is the place of complete bliss, joy, and Self-realization. (I know you just came to get rid of your back pain, but it's pretty exciting to know -- if you'd like -- you can go so much further as well!)

P - "You're only as healthy as your spine." - Joseph Pilates

Point is, just because 2 systems appear to be similar at the surface, doesn't mean rolling them into one is such a great idea. If you really have interest in both, try practicing them separately and see if you don't get more than out of one "combo" class. To cram it all into one class, just seems like too much and the real focus and benefits are lost.

One person's opinion,
Kris
www.TotalHealthYoga.com

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sweat - Should I Sweat During Yoga?

The other day, a couple of students asked, "Should I sweat during Yoga?"



If you're in a hot Yoga class, I sure hope so! Vinyasa and Ashtanga will most likely bring some droplets to your forehead, but what about Anusara, Para, or any other general Hatha class?



My response in class, was that it really depended on the person. Some folks walk into a "normal" temperature room and are already perspiring. I knew a fellow that used to sweat profusely after just 2 sun salutations. Personally, it's very rare that I sweat, but I can even run a few blocks without any dripping.



So, in the end, sweating or not does not determine if a practice is working for you or benefiting you. The real question is, are you over-efforting? Are you putting forth so much effort, that you forget your breath or worse yet are holding it unconsciously? If your breath is steady, full, and even, then go for it.



The breath, not the sweat, is the most wonderful sign post to tell you if you've strayed from the path of beneficial or not.



There have been a number of folks posting about the breath lately. To read more about it, check out Just Breath & Yogademia.

One final note: I just read in International Association of Yoga Therapists Newsletter that sweat should be rubbed or massaged back into the body! If you'd like more about this, let me know and I'll post it.

Take care and happy sweating (or not),
Kris
www.TotalHealthYoga.com

Monday, June 4, 2007

Food Additives - Peanut Butter - Pretzels







Do you know what's in your pretzels?
Last week, a friend of mine commented that I was a very disciplined eater. Admittedly, I normally avoid deep fried food and pay attention to how much chocolate enters my body. However, just this past weekend, I had 3 pieces of a heavenly "fruit" pie/cake. Mostly it was a lot of frosting. There are times when I am definitely full, and then the "hollow" leg comes out to fit in some popcorn or dark chocolate covered almonds (Trader Joe's has the best!).
I've been known to come home from teaching and eat at 9 pm knowing full well that I'll be passed out in bed by 10 pm.
Point is, I disagreed that I'm a disciplined eater. More than some, but if the fate of India was based on my ability to fast, I'm afraid things would have turned out very differently!
Mike, my partner, and I were talking about this and he said that I might not always be fully disciplined, but I was always very aware. This is definitely true. See the bag of pretzels at the top of this post? They were bought when I was gone and as soon as I got home I noticed that they were artificially flavored with butter (fake butter). The peanut butter that was selected without me had sugar (or was it corn syrup) in it. Point is, I notice these things and avoid unnecessary artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives.
Awareness, abhijja, is one of the goals of Yoga. Through the use of intimate awareness of the body, breath, and mind via asana, pranayama, and meditation, our senses are heightened. During the practice or sadhana, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses occurs naturally.
However, after the practice this respite in time brings us more present, more in the now. All senses are stimulated and the mind realizes everything that is in the current moment in time. I think this is how we become more aware.
Aside from growing in awareness, there is the first Yama and the first Niyama of the Yoga Sutras: Non-Violence (Ahimsa) and Cleanliness (Sauca). Both of these can be seen in our diets and what we put into our bodies.
Life is a choice. How we live is a choice. But to come out of ignorance and at least know what we are choosing, I believe is the first step to making wise choices. We may not always select the best option, but at least we know what we are doing and decide with open eyes.
So, know what's in your peanut butter and your pretzels. Know how the chicken and turkey are raised and treated before you eat them or their eggs. Find out where those cut flowers come from and how the farmers are treated and are the mere children?
Part of the Yoga path is to stamp out ignorism, and that starts by being aware, abhijja.
Namaste,
Kris

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sacrum - SI - How to help with low back pain


One of the most common injuries, especially in Yoginis (a female Yoga practitioner), is at the Sacral Iliac joint. This is typically called the SI joint. A typical sign of the SI joint being out of alignment is a pain on one side of the sacrum about the size of a quarter. It is best to have a doctor check it out and give you a diagnosis.

If you have pain due to SI misalignment, try the follow exercises. I learned these last year from Doug Keller of Do Yoga. He is an amazing teacher filled with great wisdom and knowledge. If you ever have a chance to study with him, I highly recommend it :-) Please, remember this is my interpretation of what he said and has worked well when I've used it. However, these are not Doug's exact words.

Photo: Compliments of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Si_joint
CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR (I AM NOT A DOCTOR) PRIOR TO ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM!

Steps to healing from a misaligned SI involve:
1. Adjust the sacrum back into alignment
2. Tone the area to keep it aligned


Supine with bent knees and rock side to side. Cross your legs close together and rock. Swap sides. One side of the sacrum (if misaligned) will feel more "pokey".



Lengthen the leg on the "pokey" side out long and hold the opposite knee in. Bounce the straight leg up and down, keeping it off of the floor. Now slide the straight leg (still off of the floor) to the same side until the body begins to tip. Do this a few times. Only if neither side felt "pokey" and you feel no misalignment, then do both sides.

Another way to feel if one side is poking out, is to flatten the low back into the floor and feel the top of the sacrum.


To continue adjusting the sacrum, come into set bandhasana (bridge) with a block support just below the waistline. Using 2 wide blocks stacked on top of each other seems to work pretty well. Now bend the knees and place the feet on a wall or even straight up.

With all of this said, low back pain is frequently associated with stress, especially when dealing with money or security of any kind. Pay attention and notice when "spasms" occur.

In the past, I have dealt with back pain and had found that some was due to scoliosis, some a new hard bed, and some fear of not having enough money. It's only when I was able to address all 3 that healing began in earnest.

Best of luck to you,
Love,
Kris
http://www.totalhealthyoga.com/